It seems like almost every day that a new bank transfer email scam is launched, yet the perpetrators of these email scam campaigns appear to rarely be caught and punished for their offenses. However, one such scammer has now been arrested and made to stand trial for his alleged crimes against companies in Texas.
Nigerian, Amechi Colvis Amuegbunam, 28, of Lagos was arrested in Baltimore and has now been charged with defrauding 17 companies in North Texas and obtaining $600,000 via bank transfers.
Nigeria is famed for 419 email scams, otherwise known as advance fee scams. These spam email campaigns receive their name from the section of the Nigerian criminal code that the email scams violate. These bank transfer scams typically require the soon-to-be victim to make a transfer of a sum of money to cover fees or charges in order to receive a substantial inheritance. This type of email bank transfer request scam is not only conducted by criminal gangs operating out of Nigeria, although that is where a substantial number of the criminals are based.
Convincing bank transfer request scam used to defraud Texas companies of over $600,000
However, Amuegbunam obtained funds from Texan companies using a much more believable scenario; one that is being increasingly used by organized criminal gangs operating out of Africa, the Middle East, and eastern Europe.
The emails Amuegbunam sent appeared to have come from the email accounts of company executives, which had been forwarded onto members of staff who were authorized to make bank transfers on behalf of the company. By using the real names of top executives, account department employees were fooled into believing the transfer requests were legitimate. The companies being targeted had been researched, the correct email account format determined, names of senior executives and management determined, and the names of account executive targets discovered.
To make the bank transfer request scam more believable, Amuegbunam used a domain name that differed from the real company domain by two characters. By transposing just two characters, the email address appeared to be genuine at first glance, certainly enough to fool the victims.
The FBI started investigating the bank transfer request scam in 2013 after employees from two companies in North Texas were fooled into making large bank transfers. Amuegbunam has used the domain lumniant.com instead of luminant.com to make an email appear to have come from within the company. The account executive who fell for the bank transfer request scam made a transfer of $98,550. The second company fell for the same scam and transferred $146,550.
Amuegbunam has now been charged with defrauding 17 Texas companies using the same method. If convicted of the crimes, he faces a fine of up to $1 million and a jail term of up to 30 years. He is just one individual however. Many more are operating similar scams.
It is therefore essential that members of the accounts department, and others who are authorized to make transfers on behalf of the company, are told how to identify a bank transfer request scam. They must also be instructed to carefully check domain names on any transfer requests and to specifically look for transposed letters.